There probably isn’t another out-of-state 2019 recruit the Gophers could’ve signed who is more familiar with Minnesota than Tre’ Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-5 wing at Wasatch Academy, doesn’t mind the cold (well, maybe not as frigid as Wednesday). He’s spent the last two years playing for a prep school in Mount Pleasant, Utah. He also has family and close friends in the Twin Cities, including five-star Minnehaha Academy 2020 point guard Jalen Suggs.
Opening the season with an 18-0 start, Wasatch was ranked as high as the No. 5 team in the nation in USA Today’s Super 25 high school poll. Williams, who earned four-star status this year, was averaging 17 points, four assists and three rebounds for a squad loaded with Division I recruits.
The leading scorer and captain for the now No. 12-ranked team in the nation, Williams spoke to the Star Tribune recently about his breakout senior season, his excitement about joining the Gophers, trying to recruit his buddy Suggs and more.
Q: What do you think about the Gophers turning things around so far this season?
A: If feel like we’re proving a lot of people wrong. Nobody expected us to be this good. I’m excited. I can’t wait to be a part of it. I love getting in transition and doing a lot of pick-and-roll action they are doing right now.
Q: What happened behind the scenes for Wasatch (currently 21-2) to become one of the top prep schools in the country this season?
A: I feel like a lot of people didn’t know us because we don’t have a big name like Montverde Academy or Oak Hill or LaLumiere. We’ve made appearances at Dick’s Nationals (now Geico National High School tournament), but we hadn’t gotten a lot of respect from people. So I just feel like a new coaching staff came in and turned it around. We’re headed in the right direction. Everybody is playing well. Coach gave us roles and we accepted it. We have four or five guys averaging double figures. The work speaks for itself. We’ve been grinding non-stop with two-a-days every week. It’s been working.
Q: How has your role changed from when you arrived from Texas and joined the team as a junior last season?
A: My role this year coach wanted me to be one of the main leaders on the team. Make sure the guys are in good spirits. Make sure they’re game ready and have high energy. Of course to put points on the board. Coach puts me on the opponent’s best offensive player every game. So just every night going out there I have to lock down as the best defender and put up a decent amount of points.
Q: What was it like to start off the season making a name for yourself nationally at the Holiday Hoopsgiving tourney in Atlanta (scored 41 points on 15-for-27 shooting, including 6-for-12 from the three-point line in two wins)?
A: It was great for me. Amazing for me and a huge confidence booster. I came into the tournament with a lot of confidence. Coach Evans came in and told me, I don’t have to worry about taking too many shots. He said if I had the open shot or can go by a guy than just take it and do it. There were a lot of college coaches there who were overlooking me or were talking to me and kind of fell off. So it gave me a chip on my shoulder to play even better. Going into that tournament and playing well and continuing to play well has been a blessing. I credit my teammates and coaches for helping me.
Q: How well do you know point guard Jalen Suggs from Minnehaha Academy?
A: That’s my cousin. We’re family. Growing up, I used to go out to Minnesota every single summer since I was 8 years old. My mom had family out there. And I would stay with Jalen’s family, hang out and work out with them. I’ve known them forever. He came to Dallas and played on my team for AAU nationals. So I’ve known him for awhile. My mom and his dad grew up together from middle school. They’ve been close ever since, so we’re pretty much family. We call each other cousins. Blood couldn’t make us any closer.
Q: Wouldn’t it be cool for you guys to play together with the Gophers?
A: No doubt. I’ve been in his ear non-stop. If me and him team up at Minnesota, then it could be big time. He’s just so versatile. He can track more than one defender on every play, which opens up a lot on the court. He can spread the court. He can shoot the ball, get to the rim and he’s athletic. I just feel like at the point, being 6-4, 6-5 being able to get around a defender, it just opens up the court. He’s a good passer as well, so him and I together would be a good duo. I haven’t been back to Minnesota since I came on my visit. But I saw him last summer in Vegas at the Fab 48 and we hung out a bit.
Q: How tough has it been living away from Dallas and your family for the last two years?
A: After about two or three months being here last year I got pretty adjusted. I’m homesick, but it’s preparing me for college. Living in the dorms has prepared me for next year. I just look at it as a business trip preparing me for high-level D-I basketball.
Q: How much have you grown physically and mentally since you came to prep school?
A: I think I’ve put on an inch (legit 6-5) and about 10-15 pounds (190-195). We’re lifting three or four days a week. I’ve gotten stronger. Shoulders are bigger. I’m more confident going into the rim. Can jump a little higher. I feel like my all-around physical (tools) and leadership has grown.
Q: Gophers coach Richard Pitino talked about your athleticism standing out. Are there other parts of your game that are underrated you think?
A: This summer and last year were the first time people were saying I was just an athlete or they were surprised by my athleticism. All my life I’ve been a scorer and been able to shoot. I had a little slump last summer, but I came back out to Utah and got a lot of shots up. I probably get 200-300 shots up in practice and more on my own. I’ve grown confident in myself, rotation is better on my shot and I worked on my left hand a lot. I can drive both ways now. I was more of a dominant right player, but I can go both ways and it helps a lot.
Q: Did having a sister (Jade) playing at Duke motivate you to prove you could go to a high-major program?
A: Expectations are high. She set the bar for me. I always knew I had to go to college. I always wanted to go to college, but she was a McDonald’s All-American and a Jordan Brand All-American. That set the bar for me to work even harder. She’s been talking to me about college. We talk on the phone a lot. She just tells me to keep grinding. It’s not a competition. She just used her experience to help me and mentor me.